Hmong refugees, Rohingya refugees, more headlines

Hmong refugees back in Laos – and now the Rohingya will be sent back to Burma Despite fears and international protests, the Thai government forcibly repatriated 4,000 Hmong refugees, including 158 who had been identified by the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees as political refugees. With the press, UNHCR and all international observers barred and cell phone service blocked, there is no direct word from those who have been forced back to Laos. Laotian government officials say that the refugees will be resettled in two villages and given homes.

In Minnesota, Hmong leaders expressed concern about the forcible repatriation of people from camps. While a few expressed cautious optimism that resettlement might go well, others warned of likely dangers. The Pioneer Press interviewed State Senator Mee Moua:

“Past experience informs us that in the past when people have allowed themselves to be willingly repatriated, people have gone missing… Then, it’s the family’s words against the government,” Moua said.

In an official statement, Moua called the repatriation “inconsistent with precedents and international agreements established in the wake of World War II. This long-established principle states that refugees and asylum-seekers cannot be forcibly returned to countries where they could face persecution and death.”

In the wake of Thailand’s action comes news from Bangladesh that 9,000 Rohingya Muslim refugees living in that country will be repatriated to Burma. (BBC and Xinhua) They are among about 28,000 Rohingyas in two official camps in south-eastern Bangladesh, who have been officially designated as refugees by UNHCR. The Bangladesh government says that another 300,000 are living illegally elsewhere in the country. Some of the ethnic Rohingya fled Burma in the 1970s, but the biggest wave of about 250,000 came in 1992, claiming religious persecution by the Burma (Myanmar) government.

More headlines:
• St. Cloud’s 367th Engineer Battalion will deploy in mid-January. 367th already served in Afghanistan in 2004-05 (MPR)
• Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula claimed it was behind the attempt to bomb Amsterdam-Detroit flight on Christmas Day. (BBC)
• River route? Rochester? Who gets high speed rail? MnDOT report later this week. (Star Tribune)
• Israel will build 692 new homes in East Jerusalem, ignoring Palestinian protest, Washington criticism (NYT)
• Three journalists, human rights activist, sister of Nobel Peace Prize winner jailed in Iran, along with opposition leaders (BBC)
• Laura Goodman, St. Kate’s safety director, ex police officer, crime victim ombudsman, running for Ramsey cty sheriff (Star Tribune)

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